How to Make Café de Olla: A Simple Guide

If you're craving that authentic Mexican coffee but can't make it to your local coffee shop, I've got you covered. Making café de olla at home is easier than you might think, and I'm here to guide you through every step. This traditional beverage, with its rich blend of coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo, brings a piece of Mexico right into your kitchen.

Trust me, once you've tasted the unique sweetness and spiced aroma of a homemade café de olla, you'll want to skip the coffee shop more often. Let's dive into how you can brew this delightful drink with ease and bring a touch of tradition to your morning routine.

Selecting the Right Ingredients

When it comes to crafting the perfect cup of café de olla, picking the right ingredients is just as crucial as following the recipe. Here's a breakdown of what you'll need:

Here's how to bring all these ingredients together:

  1. In a traditional clay pot, or a small saucepan, combine a litre of water, a stick of cinnamon, and roughly 100 grams of piloncillo (adjust based on your sweetness preference). Bring it to a boil to dissolve the sugar and infuse the cinnamon flavour.
  2. Add the coffee grounds – about 120 grams should do for a rich brew – directly into the pot. Stir well to combine everything.
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. This steeping time allows the coffee to brew without becoming too bitter.
  4. Strain the mixture using a fine mesh sieve into cups or a serving jug, making sure to catch any coffee grounds or cinnamon pieces.

By following these steps and choosing your ingredients carefully, you'll be well on your way to enjoying a traditional, aromatic cup of café de olla that transports your senses straight to the heart of Mexico.

Preparing the Equipment

Before diving into the world of café de olla, it's crucial to have the right equipment on hand. You don't need a whole lot, but a few key items will make the process smoother and your coffee more authentic.

First and foremost, you'll need an olla, a traditional Mexican clay pot. This is what gives the coffee its distinctive flavour. If you don't have an olla, don't worry. A regular saucepan can work, but the taste might not be exactly the same.

Here's a quick checklist of what else you'll need:

The beauty of café de olla lies in its simplicity, both in ingredients and preparation. With these tools at the ready, you're well on your way to creating a deliciously authentic cup of coffee.

  1. Rinse the Olla: If you're using an olla, give it a good rinse with warm water. This removes any dust and prepares it for brewing. For a regular saucepan, just make sure it's clean.
  2. Assemble Your Tools: Place the wooden spoon, strainer, and cups on your workstation. Having everything within arm's reach will streamline your coffee-making process.
  3. Preheat Water: Fill your olla or saucepan with the required amount of water (as per the recipe you're following) and start heating it over a medium flame. The key to a good café de olla is not rushing it, so let the water heat slowly.

With your equipment prepared and your ingredients measured out, you're all set to start cooking. Remember, making café de olla is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Enjoy the process and the aroma filling your kitchen.

Brewing the Coffee

After setting myself up with the necessary equipment, I find the actual process of brewing café de olla surprisingly simple and deeply rewarding. Here's how I do it:

Preparing the Ingredients

Before anything else, I ensure I have all the ingredients at hand. Remarkably, café de olla doesn't call for many items, making it an effortless venture into traditional Mexican coffee making. You'll need:

  1. Heat the Water: In my pre-rinsed clay pot, I slowly heat the water over a medium flame. Watching for when it's just about to boil, I ensure there's a gentle roll rather than a furious bubbling. Patience is key.
  2. Add Flavours: Next, I slide the cinnamon stick, piloncillo cone (or brown sugar), and any other optional ingredients into the water. Stirring gently with a wooden spoon, I wait for the sugar to dissolve completely, imbuing the water with each ingredient's unique essence.
  3. Introduce the Coffee: As the aromatic liquid returns to a near-boil, I sprinkle in the ground coffee. Another gentle stir to blend everything before I turn down the heat. The goal here is to simmer, letting flavours mingle without advancing to a full boil. About 5 minutes usually does the trick.
  4. Rest and Serve: Turning off the heat, I let the mixture sit for a few minutes. This pause is crucial as it allows the coffee grounds to settle. I then use a fine mesh strainer while serving into heat-resistant cups, ensuring a smooth, seductive drink free of gritty remnants.

At each step, I savour the aroma filling my kitchen, a fragrant preview of the delightful experience awaiting with each sip.

Adding Sweetness and Spice

After getting the water to a gentle simmer in our trusty clay pot, it's time to introduce the heart and soul of café de olla: sweetness and spice. This step is not just about adding flavour, but about bringing warmth and richness to our cup. Here's how I do it, keeping it simple and straightforward for anyone to follow.

  1. Add Piloncillo: Begin with your piloncillo or brown sugar. For a standard pot serving around 4 cups, I recommend using about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of piloncillo. If you're using brown sugar as a substitute, go for the same amount. Break the piloncillo into smaller pieces so it dissolves more easily.
  2. Introduce Cinnamon: Now, take one whole cinnamon stick and gently place it into the simmering water. Cinnamon doesn't just add flavour; it infuses the coffee with a soothing aroma that's absolutely irresistible.
  3. A Pinch of Spice (Optional): For those who enjoy a bit of complexity, a pinch of ground cloves or nutmeg can elevate your café de olla. This step is optional, but I find that it adds a subtle depth to the flavour profile.

Let's not rush this part. The key is to give these ingredients a few minutes to meld together, allowing the piloncillo to fully dissolve and the cinnamon to impart its fragrant essence into the brew. Stir occasionally, ensuring everything combines evenly. You'll notice the mixture taking on a rich, caramel hue, a sign that we're heading in the right direction.

Remember, making café de olla is about embracing tradition and enjoying the process. As the sweet and spicy aromas start to fill the kitchen, take a moment to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of this age-old method.

Serving and Enjoying

Once the café de olla has steeped and infused with all the rich flavours of cinnamon, piloncillo, and the optional spices, it's time to move on to what I can only describe as the best part: serving and enjoying this traditional Mexican brew. The way café de olla is served adds to its charm and authenticity, ensuring you get the full experience.

First off, you'll want to sieve the coffee to remove any solid pieces. I use a fine mesh strainer for this step. It's crucial to ensure a smooth cup of coffee, free from bits of spices or coffee grounds.

Next, choosing the right cup plays a significant role in enjoying café de olla. Traditionally, it is served in a clay cup, which some say adds a special flavour unique to this method. If you don't have clay cups, don't worry. A regular mug will do, but the idea is to keep it as traditional as possible.

Here's a simple bullet point guide to serve café de olla:

Enjoying café de olla is all about embracing the moment. I find it perfect for chilly mornings or as an afternoon treat, accompanied by a slice of pan dulce or a simple biscuit. The sweetness and spices in café de olla make it a comforting beverage, standing out from your everyday coffee routine.

As you sip on your freshly brewed café de olla, take in the aromas and let the flavours transport you to the heart of Mexico. Each sip is a reminder of the tradition and care that goes into creating this delightful drink. Whether you're enjoying it solo or sharing the experience with friends and family, café de olla offers a warm embrace with every cup.


Mastering the art of making café de olla has been a delightful journey for me. Straining the coffee for that perfect texture and choosing a clay cup for serving not only enhances the flavour but also pays homage to a rich cultural tradition. It's a drink that brings warmth and comfort, ideal for those mornings when you need a hug in a cup or an afternoon treat paired with something sweet. Every sip takes me back to Mexico, offering a taste of its vibrant culture and tradition. Whether you're enjoying it solo or sharing the experience with friends and family, café de olla is more than just a beverage; it's a celebration of life's simple pleasures. So, let's embrace this beautiful tradition and make every cup a memorable one.

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